Monty makes rare visit this side of the pond

Colin Montgomerie is playing this week in the Arnold Palmer Invitational. (File photo)

Colin Montgomerie is playing this week in the Arnold Palmer Invitational. (File photo)

ORLANDO, Fla. – It’s not too often Colin Montgomerie plays in the U.S. these days. Unless he qualifies for the U.S. Open, PGA Championship or WGC Bridgestone Invitational, none of which he is exempt, this may be the Scot’s lone visit this side of the pond.

These days, you have a better chance of seeing him play in China.

So I watched some vintage Monty. There was warm applause when his name was announced on the first tee. Monty started with a pair of bogeys due to a sloppy chip and a 3-putt.

Love him or hate him, Monty always wore his emotions on his sleeve. His drooping eyes and drooping shoulders told the story.  When he missed his birdie effort at No. 3, he gave it the old shoulder shrug, but still looked determined and walked to the fourth with purpose.

And then, as if the clouds parted and the sun came out, Monty was in full form. He hit fairways and greens. His approach shots nestled near the hole. Putts dropped. He birdied three in a row from Nos. 4-6, and four out of five holes. He even chatted with spectators, cracking a joke about one’s Loudmouth pants. I think I saw him smile. Of course, it’s still a delight to watch his fluid swing. Of that, I’m certain.

When he made the turn 2 under for the day, Monty was downright jovial. He stopped to greet Ernie Els and Butch Harmon on the range. NBC’s Johnny Miller walked over to say hello.

“Where else are we going to see you?” Miller asked.

Monty explained that, unfortunately, he would not be playing in Houston next week, the city where he attended college, because all of the international exemptions were given to highly-ranked players, like Lee Westwood or young up-and-comers such as Chris Wood. Instead, Monty will visit Houston to work with his instructor, Paul Marchand, then go to Dubai to practice and Suzhou, China to compete in the Volvo China Open.

“Europe has grown,” Monty told Miller, with a smile.

And with that he trudged off to the 10th tee.

“The Full Monty” in nine holes.

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